Lusaka, Zambia – This week, during a trip to Lusaka, Zambia for the 2011 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced a new Obama Administration initiative to build trade capacity called the African Competitiveness and Trade Expansion (ACTE) initiative. ACTE will provide $120 million over four years to build on the success of Africa's regional trade hubs and help African nations to realize AGOA’s full potential.
“President Obama and I see extraordinary promise and potential in Africa,” said Ambassador Kirk. "AGOA has produced 11 years of positive results, but we understand that more needs to be done to tap into Africa's great potential. That is why I am pleased to announce this new investment today. ACTE is the next step in growing and expanding Africa's economic competitiveness."
The announcement came during remarks at the Forum’s Ministerial Opening Ceremony on Thursday, June 9. Present were Zambian President Rupiah Banda and Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Felix Mutati, Obama Administration officials and delegates from over 30 African countries. At the Ceremony, Ambassador Kirk delivered a special greeting from President Obama and highlighted AGOA’s success in expanding exports from Africa to the U.S. He also announced the Obama Administration’s intent to work with Congress to extend AGOA’s third-country fabric provision through 2015. This important provision allows eligible AGOA countries to export apparel products made with textiles from foreign countries duty-free to the U.S. In addition, he noted that the Obama Administration will work with Congress towards a seamless renewal of AGOA beyond the current 2015 expiration.
During the Forum, Ambassador Kirk met with Secretary-General Dr. Richard Sezibera of the East-African Community (EAC) and trade ministers of the five EAC member countries. He discussed with them a new U.S.-EAC initiative focused on regional integration that will include as one of its core elements a regional investment treaty. He also held bilateral meetings with President Banda, Minister Mutati, Trade Minister of Ghana Hannah Tettah and Swaziland Senator and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Jabulile Mashwama. Ambassador Kirk discussed with these leaders strategies for diversifying exports and specifically how AGOA can be used as part of that strategy.
While in Lusaka, Ambassador Kirk toured FreshPikt, a canning facility. While there, he participated in a signing ceremony to mark a joint venture between FreshPikt and American investor, PS International. PS International is in the process of purchasing a majority stake in FreshPikt, valued up to $30 million. This venture will expand the production of tomato paste for local and regional markets, and will eventually source all inputs from local Zambian farms. Currently, FreshPikt-owned farms supply 50 percent of the factory’s inputs, with the rest coming from nearly 1,200 small-scale Zambian farmers.
On Friday, June 10, Ambassador Kirk joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Ministerial Closing Ceremony of the Forum, followed by a dinner hosted by President Banda at the State House. At both events, he expressed his gratitude to President Banda and the Zambian government for welcoming him and the rest of the U.S. delegation to Zambia and for the excellent job Zambia did in hosting the 10th AGOA Forum.
He then concluded his trip by joining Secretary Clinton for a ceremony marking the launch of the first-ever Zambian-American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). Among the more than 20 charter members of the chapter are Citibank, Cargill, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Freeport McMoran, Pioneer-Dupont, and Microsoft. This new AmCham will compliment the work of the newly-formed U.S.-Zambia Working Group on Bilateral Trade and AGOA, and encourage mutually beneficial U.S.-Zambia joint ventures.
"I want to commend the U.S. Embassy in Zambia for its work to coordinate the AmCham affiliation that makes this launch possible," said Ambassador Kirk. "The new Zambian AmCham will be an advocate for increasing trade and investment in Zambia and encouraging economic growth."
AGOA was enacted by Congress in 2000. It serves as a cornerstone for U.S. economic engagement with Sub-Saharan African nations and encourages the growth of their economies. AGOA allows duty-free access for African exports, covering ninety-eight percent of the products the 37 eligible African countries send to the U.S market.
This year marks the 10th annual meeting of the AGOA Forum, which brings together hundreds of U.S. and sub-Saharan African government officials, as well as the African and American private sector and members of the public. The 2011 Forum’s theme was “Enhanced Trade through Increased Competitiveness, Value Addition and Deeper Regional Integration.” Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Forum. Other representatives from the U.S. included senior officials from various federal government agencies including USTR, the Departments of State, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation and Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the African Development Foundation and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).